Humanity seems all too eager to turn disagreement into conflict. In addition to Ukraine there are apparently 19 significant wars currently being fought worldwide. Even In our peaceful society there are deep divisions with anger and conflict just beneath the surface. Divisions between young and old, left and right wing, black and white, Brexit and re-join, woke and anti-woke.
Conflict may be in our nature, yet I believe we are called by God to something different, to resist our tendencies to divide, to recognise that everyone is created in God’s image and therefore worthy of respect, even love.
I write this in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an annual event to pray for unity and cooperation among Christians. The fact that such an event is required indicates that, unfortunately, the Church falls short of its divine calling, and just like in the rest of the world disunity can lead to anger and conflict.
In the last few days there have been two announcements by the Church of England which I know have divided and angered Christians across our nation and our villages:
The setup of a fund to invest £100 million over ten years to improve opportunities for communities adversely impacted by historic slavery: Whilst some applaud the gesture, others are angry that the church has caved in to a woke agenda. They suggest that current churchgoers are not responsible for the sins of their ancestors and that the money should be allocated to financially struggling parishes instead. Others are angry the gesture didn’t go far enough, with church profits from slavery estimated as £1.4 billion in today’s money.
An apology to LGBTQI+ people for the rejection, exclusion and hostility they have faced in churches and a promise to publish prayers and services to bless same-sex marriages conducted outside church: Again, some applaud, but others are angry this is too little, too late, and still does not permit same sex marriage in church. For others still, it represents a failure by the Church to stand up for traditional teaching on sexuality.
Despite short-term anger from some, my prayer is that we recognise within the Church and the world that God’s will is not division and conflict but unity. Unity doesn’t mean uniformity, where we all have to say, do, and believe the same things, but a unity where we can disagree well, where disagreements don’t turn to conflict, anger, and hatred, but are mediated by love. Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbour, even to love our enemies. A tall order for a human race so steeped in the division, but an objective worthy of prayer.
If you would like to discuss the issues raised above, please do come and talk to me or Tim and we promise to discuss in a spirit of friendship, unity, reconciliation and love.